Polycystic liver disease or PLD is the rare inherited disorder that causes cysts to form on the liver that have the potential to decrease liver functioning. However, most individuals who have PLD will be asymptomatic – meaning that they will experience no symptoms – and will not develop any serious complications from this disease.
While many cases of PLD are caused by PKD or polycystic kidney disease, there are cases where PLD has developed in individuals who do not have PKD. Polycystic liver disease causes cysts to form on the liver that can cause swelling and abdominal pain in some patients.
Prevalence and Symptoms of PLD
Polycystic liver disease is an extremely rare condition that affects less than two hundred thousand individuals in the United States. While most individuals are born with this disorder, many are never diagnosed until they are in their mid forties to early fifties and some may never be diagnosed due to the fact that this disease typically causes no symptoms or serious complications.
Some cases of PLD are discovered only after image testing is done for another medical condition. The cysts that grow with PLD are typically very small and cause no problem with liver functioning; however, these cysts tend to grow larger in women and the reason for this is thought to be linked with the levels of the estrogen hormones.
Typically the cysts that occur with polycystic liver disease require no treatment. Larger cysts can cause the liver to become enlarged (hepatomegaly) and harden causing abdominal pain. While it is rare, these cysts may become extremely large interfering with liver function and cause severe symptoms and serious complications that may require a liver transplant, however, this typically not recommended unless the complications have significantly affected the patient’s quality of life and all other forms of treatment have failed.
Polycystic Kidney Disease and its Association with Polycystic Liver Disease
Over fifty percent of individuals who develop polycystic kidney disease will also develop polycystic liver disease, however, when PLD occurs on its own, the cysts will typically not develop within the kidneys causing PKD. While there is no cure or specific treatments available for either polycystic kidney or liver disease, treatment will typically be given to control the symptoms of the disease.
When these disease coexist, treatment is typically needed to control hypertension (high blood pressure), pain medication, or antibiotics to treat any infections that may have occurred. In more serious cases of polycystic kidney disease, failure of the kidneys can occur requiring a kidney transplant.
While these conditions are rare and most go undetected due to a lack of symptoms, if you are experiencing any symptoms that concern you, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your physician for an evaluation.